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Commodity Prices, Gold and the Aussie Dollar The AUD has belatedly In June of last year, we set out our rationale for believing that the Australian started to move up dollar had bottomed and why we thought we would see a USD/AUD of 65-albeit not at the speed 170 on a one-year view. Almost 12 months on, the AUD has belatedly or to the extent we had started to move up albeit not at the speed or to the extent we had envisaged envisaged at the time. Nevertheless, we continue to believe that the Aussie still has a lot further to go over the coming year for most of the same reasons we presented in 2001. And given that we spent much of last week down under, now seemed an opportune time to restate our arguments. So with the blood having drained back down towards our feet… Nevertheless, we still To recap, our thesis for being long the AUD and by implication other see a USD/AUD of 65-commodity currencies is predicated on both monetary and real economy 70 on a one-year view arguments. In essence, we continue to believe that two factors will drive a major shift in relative prices over the next year or so – the internal devaluation of fiat currencies and supply imbalances resulting from an extended period of investment flow distortions. Monetary policy We begin with a spot of monetary history. Ever since coinage first appeared conduct during the in Sumeria circa 3700 BC, the sanctity of monetary standards has been period since the 1970s reliant on the underlying ...

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Nombre de lectures 41
Langue English
Commodity Prices, Gold and the Aussie Dollar
DSG
Asia
13 May, 2002
1
In June of last year, we set out our rationale for believing that the Australian
dollar had bottomed and why we thought we would see a USD/AUD of 65-
70 on a one-year view.
1
Almost 12 months on, the AUD has belatedly
started to move up albeit not at the speed or to the extent we had envisaged
at the time. Nevertheless, we continue to believe that the Aussie still has a
lot further to go over the coming year for most of the same reasons we
presented in 2001. And given that we spent much of last week down under,
now seemed an opportune time to restate our arguments. So with the blood
having drained back down towards our feet…
To recap, our thesis for being long the AUD and by implication other
commodity currencies is predicated on both monetary and real economy
arguments. In essence, we continue to believe that two factors will drive a
major shift in relative prices over the next year or so – the internal
devaluation of fiat currencies and supply imbalances resulting from an
extended period of investment flow distortions.
We begin with a spot of monetary history. Ever since coinage first appeared
in Sumeria
circa
3700 BC, the sanctity of monetary standards has been
reliant on the underlying hard backing for the unit of exchange. The general
empirical experience has been that commodity standards have been
abandoned either when leaders have wished to finance major expansions in
public expenditure (which pre-twentieth century normally meant the desire
to go to war), or when the pressures to mitigate the deflationary
consequences of the hard asset backing became too acute. Either way, the
experience was almost always uniform; the value of fiat devalued in relation
to the underlying physical asset.
Set against the history of the previous 5700 years, the period since the 1970s
has been an aberration. It started off in a pretty classic manner. Richard
Nixon’s devaluation of the USD relative to gold in 1971 and his subsequent
abandonment of the gold standard in 1973 were implemented for the good
old-fashioned reason of military campaign funding. The Yom Kippur war in
October 1973 then served to drive inflation even higher setting in motion a
massive rise in the price of gold both in absolute terms and relative to paper
assets. Enter one Paul Volker in 1979 with a mandate to crush inflation; a
monetary stance that was reflected at the central banks of the world’s
second and third largest economies, Japan and Germany. And for the next
1
See “Australia – Digger’s Revenge”, June 4
th
2001.
The AUD has belatedly
started to move up
albeit not at the speed
or to the extent we had
envisaged
Nevertheless, we still
see a USD/AUD of 65-
70 on a one-year view
Monetary policy
conduct during the
period since the 1970s
has been an historical
aberration
Price rises were tamed
under a fiat monetary
standard…
Commodity Prices, Gold and the Aussie Dollar
DSG
Asia
13 May, 2002
2
twenty years, price rises were tamed under a fiat monetary standard
overseen by generally competent central bankers.
The result was that gold’s
lustre as a store of value diminished while paper assets under the backing of
a ‘hard’ fiat standard saw a massive revaluation.
The long-term chart above illustrates many of these trends. First note the
great deflation of the post Civil War 1800s which we have written at length
about in the past.
2
With a few interruptions, the US economy was on a gold
standard during this period and this helped accommodate a high 4.5%
average annual rate of real income growth and steady stock market gains,
albeit with considerable volatility. World War I caused a massive spike in
inflation but as this subsided so stocks took off only to land with a bump in
the1930s. Partly as a result of huge negative output gaps at the start of
World War II, the late 1940s inflation was less severe than after the
previous conflict and the monetary stability re-established in 1948 set the
stage for a period of sustained growth and stock market appreciation
through to the late 1960s.
2
See for example: “The Price is Right – Disinflation Versus Deflation”, April 17
th
2001.
…thus gold’s lustre as
a store of value
diminished
US Inflation, the S&P500 and Metals Prices Relative to the Gold Price
0
50
100
150
200
250
1870
1880
1890
1900
1910
1920
1930
1940
1950
1960
1970
1980
1990
2000
-0.8
-0.6
-0.4
-0.2
0.0
0.2
0.4
0.6
0.8
Inflation*/Gold (LHS)
Log S&P/Gold
* WPI pre-1970, CPI thereafter
Index 1910=100
MG Index/Gold (LHS)
Commodity Prices, Gold and the Aussie Dollar
DSG
Asia
13 May, 2002
3
Finally, post the traumas of the 1970s, the 1980s and 1990s saw trust in
central bankers as the guardians of price stability build and build with the
result that gold started to behave like other physical metals. So while the
real price of gold has reverted to its long-term average, its value relative to
paper assets has fallen to historically unprecedented levels.
3
The second chart above shows the gold price’s response under discretionary
monetary policy as proxied by USD base money growth in America and
Japan.
4
Note how gold’s responsiveness to base money volatility has
diminished in the 1990s again suggesting that the financial markets have
come to trust the central bankers more and more.
(The Y2K spike was
3
See also: Tim Lee, “The Global Financial Adjustment is Far From Complete”,
DSG
Asia
,
October 10
th
2001.
4
Interestingly enough, base money levels in Japan and the US are around the same now but
the sputtering nature of the transmission mechanism in the former has resulted in broad
money being half the level of that in the latter.
Gold’s value relative to
paper assets has fallen
to historically
unprecedented levels
US & Japan Monetary Base Growth and the Gold Price
0
100
200
300
400
500
600
700
72
73
74 75
76
77
78
79
80
81
82
83
84
85
86
87 88
89
90
91 92
93
94
95
96
97
98
99
00 01
02
-10%
-5%
0%
5%
10%
15%
20%
25%
30%
Gold USD per Ounce
USD %YoY, 3MMA
Gold Price (LHS)
US & Japan Monetary Base
Growth (RHS)
Commodity Prices, Gold and the Aussie Dollar
DSG
Asia
13 May, 2002
4
interpreted as being temporary and was indeed reversed rapidly.) The recent
surge in base growth is one to watch since we interpret this as the first leg of
a sustained period of extraordinary liquidity creation. The Fed especially is
attempting to bring paper asset valuations back nearer to reality by ensuring
that prices do not collapse but values normalise via a prolonged sideways
move, which allows underlying income streams to catch up.
While such trends should accommodate a rise in the gold price relative to
the US dollar, US inflation and US assets, it should also be reflected in a
rise in the relative prices of other commodities and thus drive a revaluation
of commodity-based currencies. We reproduce below our chart of the
USD/AUD plotted against an index of non-fuel commodities relative to
global CPI. We would again stress that we are making a relative call here
based on both monetary analysis and the idea that there has been substantial
over-investment in manufacturing and technology, and under-investment in
many extraction industries. This investment imbalance should serve to keep
a cap on the ability of companies to raise prices at the retail level but should
also accommodate slightly firmer resource prices on the assumption that
underlying consumer demand will still be growing steadily.
The recent surge in
base growth is the first
leg of a sustained
period of extraordinary
liquidity creation.
Commodity Prices Relative to Consumer Prices and the USD/AUD
40
60
80
100
120
140
160
180
70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 00 01 02
0.4
0.5
0.6
0.7
0.8
0.9
1.0
1.1
1.2
1.3
1.4
1.5
* IMF Non-Fuels Commodity Price Index Relative to Global CPI Proxy
USD/AUD (RHS)
USD/AUD
Relative Price Index *
Commodity Prices, Gold and the Aussie Dollar
DSG
Asia
13 May, 2002
5
While we are not looking for a relative price surge
à la
the early 1970s, such
trends could easily drive the Aussie 20% or so higher on our opinion.
Indeed as the chart below suggests, terms of trade improvements and
commodity price rises over the last two years already suggest that the AUD
is lagging behind fundamentals. Some of this was explained in 2000 by
Australia’s lack of ‘sexy’ investment stories, which was driving greater and
greater superannuation and real money flows overseas. A lack of sexiness is
sometimes a virtue though and a reassessment may be getting underway.
Especially if tech continues to perform poorly as we believe it will do.
The strong currency argument can be further reinforced by a number of
additional factors. First, as we have been predicting for a number of months,
the RBA has started to tighten monetary policy. Australia is probably
operating nearer to full capacity than almost any other developed economy
with all sectors of the economy performing strongly. Business and
consumer confidence are rising, retail sales and corporate investment are
humming along nicely, and rapid (though not broadly excessive) gains in
This should result in a
rise in the relative
prices of other
commodities and thus
drive a revaluation of
commodity-based
currencies
Short rate differentials
will move further in
Australia’s favour as
the year progresses
Commodity Prices, Terms of Trade and the Trade Weighted AUD
80
90
100
110
120
130
140
150
71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 00 01 02
40
50
60
70
80
90
100
110
120
130
AUD TWI
Commodity Prices/ToT
RBA Trade Weighted AUD Index (RHS)
Terms of Trade (LHS)
RBA Commodity Price Index (SDRs, LHS)
Commodity Prices, Gold and the Aussie Dollar
DSG
Asia
13 May, 2002
6
property values seem likely to simulate consumer expenditures further.
5
We
suspect that the 0.25% move in the cash rate served up last week will not be
the last by any means and that short rate differentials will move further in
Australia’s favour as the year progresses.
One area of concern is the current account deficit, which has widened again
into Q4 2001 to 3.7% of GDP from 1.8% of GDP in the previous quarter.
And while this seems likely to deteriorate further as Australian growth
outstrips most of its peers, the deficit is a long way away from the 6.1% of
GDP gap recorded in late 1999, and moreover should be easily financeable.
If we are correct on the relative attractiveness of the AUD and interest rate
differentials, then the country should see incremental currency and bond
inflows from international managers. We also suspect that while regional
equity managers have been running down Australian positions to fund
purchases elsewhere in Asia, this process is pretty much complete. And if
superior growth continues to come through, then we may even see some
additional ‘safe-haven’ allocations from larger international mandates.
Finally, if the resource sector does turn out to be an outperformer as we
believe, then we may also see direct investments going back down under.
Shrimp on the barbie anyone?
5
Australia’s housing market has pockets of excess but the quality of local balance sheets is
superior to those in America as fewer Australians have extracted equity from their houses
to fund current consumption. See: “Assessing the Wealth Effect in Asia”, February 19
th
2002.
The current account
deficit should be easily
financeable
Shrimp on the barbie
anyone?
Commodity Prices, Gold and the Aussie Dollar
DSG
Asia
13 May, 2002
7
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DSG
Asia
, DSG Asia Limited and Galaxy Consultancy Limited.
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Asia
is a trademark of DSG Asia Limited and Galaxy Consultancy Limited.
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